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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Does anyone out there know Janelle?

High school for some of us was a nightmare. For others, a wonderful time. I think I landed somewhere in the middle.

We have had a few (ahem!) high school reunions since I graduated.

I missed the last one. (I didn't get mailed the invitation and only live 30 miles away.) (Holy Shit: Was that intentional? I mean I really did behave at the last one...really!) (I didn't hear about it until it was over and someone from my class asked me why I wasn't there.)

Every reunion, there is a core of about only 6 people that I really want to be there. It never fails, they are never there.

So, when I found out that they had the audacity to have the last reunion without ME, I asked one of my friends (yes, they are part of the wanted 6) (who DID get invited to the last one!) if Janelle Bowers (actual real name) was there. She said no.

None of us have seen Janelle since a few years after we graduated. No one knows her forwarding address.

Yes, I have done all the usual things. I have Googled her, gone on Classmates.com and Yahoo. Nothing.

We know she got married to someone, but Janelle had kept her maiden name when they got married, and she only called him "Kit" (so none of us knows his real first and last name.) He didn't graduate with us and he wasn't from the same town. Janelle had met him in college. We know he was a singer in a band, but none of us can remember the name of his band.

Janelle was a sincere, terrific and sweet person. In high school, she was very shy and only had a few friends. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

She was very secretive about her family. Rumors were that she was very poor.

Whenever there was a high school event, she would find a way to get there. But if anyone was driving a bunch of us home, she would never let us drive her to her door. She insisted on us dropping her off at the end of her country road (summer or winter). We used to worry about her safety doing this, but it was the only way she would let us pick her up or drive her home. Thinking back on it now, I think she was ashamed of her house and of how poor they really were.

As life goes, after graduation, we headed off to different schools and before long, I was married and so was she, and she headed (I think to California?) with her husband, never to be heard from again. I don't know if she is alive or dead, married or divorced or if she had any children.

I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, I was having a slumber party once and she softly mentioned that she had a guitar and asked if she should bring it over. I was shocked, because I had known her for quite some time and had no idea she knew how to play a guitar. I excitedly told her to (of course!) bring it.

She did.

During the party, she played it beautifully. I asked her if she sang too. She blushed a million shades of pink and said yes, but that no one had ever heard her sing before. She said she only sang for herself because she would die of embarrassment to have someone else hear her.

After hours of begging, she finally relented to singing for us. But ONLY if we would not look at her. She made us promise.

We promised.

So, softly and slowly Janelle starts to sing and play the guitar back in the darkened part of my basement, during the slumber party.

At first her voice trembles, and we can barely hear her.

And slowly, slowly, her volume increases....and before we know it, she is belting out this Oh-My-God-if-Whitney-Houston-heard-you-right-now-she'd-rip-out-your-hair-and-knife-your-thorax-so-you'd-never-sing-again-and-be-her-competition voice.

By then, we all break our promise about not looking at her while she is singing and come out of the shadows to make sure that this its-giving-me-goosebumps voice we are hearing is really coming out of Janelle.

She finishes the song, and is flushed, with tears running down her cheeks as we are hooting and hollering and clapping for her.

"Janelle!" I gasp. "How long have you been singing like this? It was beautiful!" we cry.

She dries her eyes and says to us that she has been singing for about a year, but "didn't think she was very good."

I'm telling you....if she would have been on International Idol (forget just American Idol) that night, Simon Cowell would have pushed aside the other judges, climbed on stage, kissed her feet and apologized to the world for being such a Dickhead by saying before that there are no good singers out there.

She didn't believe us that night. Her modesty was blocking her talent.

But, after months and months of us encouraging her to sing for us (and only us), she finally (after we begged her to) entered our Senior class talent contest.

I thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown before she performed.

But when she did, it was magical.

You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. (Not to mention a few jaws dropping).

She got a standing ovation, and finally.....finally....a voice of her own that gave her self-confidence.

I ran into her about 2 years later, when we were both still in college.

She was a confident, outgoing wonderful woman. I was so pleased to see the metamorphasis from the awkward, shy, sweet girl she had been in high school.

She said that she was engaged to Kit and that he was having her sing in his band with him in California after their small wedding. I was so happy for her to have found "her voice" in the world and she seemed so happy. We exchanged addresses and she promised to keep in touch.

We sent cards for a few years.....and then, we lost touch.

I moved a few times. She probably did too.

I wonder about her often. For a long time, I even scanned band names to see if any of the lead singers were named Janelle or Kit. No luck . Their band probably didn't make it famous and she is probably a grandmother by now. She deserved to be famous, but my biggest hope for her is that she is happy and healthy. She's probably belting out that miracle voice in some local choir somewhere. If so, they are one lucky choir.

So, if any of you out there know anyone named Janelle, please ask her if her maiden name is Bowers, and if she grew up in Upper Michigan.

If she says yes, please send her my way.

And tell her she's been sadly missed.

7 comments:

lizzie said...

I do hope you find her.

Kearsie said...

I was going to leave a real smart alecky comment about how maybe she was in love with KIT from Knight Rider and is now a groupie for David Hasslehoff. But after reading the rest of the post, I just thought it was really sweet. It makes me wonder about a few friends I had in high school that I lost touch with. This one girl, Pat, was the sweetest and I *so* want to find her.

Insanity Kim said...

Wow this is quite the touching post! *sniff* I hope you find her!!

pehpot said...

now after I laugh out loud on the other post.. you made me teary eyed.. this is very touching and i do hope you find her.. have you tried her in facebook? myspace?

The Retired One said...

Lizzie: Thanks! I will keep looking. It will probably turn out that she has lived across the street or something and you will see it on some sappy TV show. ha

Kearsie: I forgot about Knight Rider. Maybe THAT is who he was! So...I know some Pat's....let me help you out. Oh, never mind. I am like..you mom's age...so any Pat's I know could be YOUR Pat's grandma or something!

Insanity Kim: Thanks Honey...and for God's sake, go and get a kleenex.

Pehpot: I like to screw with people's heads. You know...get 'em crying and then laughing. Yep, I tried Facebook,& My Space. The only good thing is that if she has passed away, it delays things for me and I can still hope she is 'with us'....... She will always be alive in my memory, and that is what counts, right?

Aria said...

That was wonderful. You gave me goosebumps too. I'd put a hex on you for making me cry, but that post was just to sweet to do that to you. I am very sorry to say that I don't know Janelle, cause I'd handcuff her to the computer until she emailed you with her contact info... WOW, I really need to layoff the caffeine...

The Retired One said...

Aria: So you do hexes? Welllll...I will be ringing you up on that one. You will be busier than a mosquito on an elephant!
P.S. I always KNEW you were into handcuffs. It's always the innocent looking ones.
Are you cheating already on your old coffee cup? (You hussy, you. You didn't even give the old one the respectable 6 months mourning!)

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I retired in June 2008 and started my blog in November 2008. I worked at several jobs as a Registered Nurse prior to retirement. I LOVE being retired! Blogging has offered me a whole new venue to start writing again and to share new hobbies such as gardening, birdwatching and sharing my nature photography. If you like my blog, PLEASE click on "follow this blog". Having a lot of followers reading my blog gives me incentive to continue to do photography and to continue to write. I also LOVE comments, so I encourage you to leave me a comment after you read my posts. Thanks everyone, for taking the time to read me!!

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